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Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was born Helena Petrovna Von Hahn on the night of 30/31st July 1831(Old Russian Calendar) 11/12th August (Gregorian Calendar) in Ekaterinoslav (now Dniepropetrovsk.) Her mother, Helena Andreyevna von Hahn, was suffering from Cholera and not expected to survive. Helena Petrovna was born prematurely and doctors were astounded that she was born alive. A priest was summoned to perform the baptism quickly and during the service a 2 year old child aunt of HPB accidentally set the priest’s robes on fire.


Her father Peter Alexeyevich von Hahn was an officer in the Russian Royal Horse Artillery. He was descended from the Prussian aristocracy. Shortly after he married Helena Andreyevna he was called into war and his wife returned to her parent' home when their daughter Helena was born. Helena Andreyevna wrote novels concerning restricted Russian women and was called the George Sand of Russia.


HPB and her mother and sister Vera traveled in 1837 to the Russian province of Astrakan to join her maternal grandfather who has been appointed trustee for the nomadic Kalmuk tribes. The Kalmuks are Mongolian Buddhists with a lamaistic system similar to that of the Tibetan Buddhists. This was HPB’s first contact with Buddhism.


In 1838 the family moved to Odessa where Miss Augusta Jeffries from Yorkshire was employed to teach the children English. 


HPB’s mother died on 6th June 1842 when Helena was twelve, but later Helena would say that her mother had died when she was a baby. The question is why did Helena Blavatsky deny the existence of her mother in her childhood. It is true that she grew from a sickly baby into a problem child subjected to hysteria and convulsions. When dying her mother observed sadly, "Ah well, perhaps it is best that I am dying, so at least I shall be spared seeing what befalls Helena. Of one thing I am certain, her life will not be that of other women, and she will have much to suffer."


This statement that her mother died when she was a baby seems to suggest that there was strife between the mother and daughter. It indicates a conflict between the wills. That Helen resented her mother's long absences, her intimate friendships in the bohemian world of letters, and felt it as a desertion of the home and herself. Her mother seemed to have hurt her pride.


Helena's childhood was not the usual one. She displayed neurotic behavior from almost infancy by walking and talking in her sleep at four, exhibiting morbid tendencies, and loving the weird and fantastic. One of her earliest recollections was macabre in nature. At Ekaterinoslav, the countryside was said to be haunted with russalkas, green-haired nymphs living in willow trees along the river banks. Whenever her nurses crossed her Helena threaten to have the russalkas tickle them to death.


One day when Helena was four she was walking by the river bank with one of her nurses while a serf-boy of fourteen followed them and annoyed Helena by pulling her perambutor. She them imitated one of her father's roars threatening to have the russalkas tickle the boy to death. The boy being scarred, took to his heels over the river bank. He was not seen again until fishermen discovered his dead body weeks later. Helena's family supposed he had accidentally stepped into a sand-pit whirlpool. But, the household surfs knew otherwise; they knew that the four-year-old girl had withdrawn her protection from the boy and delivered him over to the russalkas. It is significant that HPB should later accuse herself of homicide at the age of four, and the victim a boy ten years her senior.


Her memory of this incident is not surprising when view in perspective with other incidents of her childhood. Those who took care of her, besides her parents, were serfs and women who had learned and believed in superstitions. At the time Old Russia was a hothouse for superstitions. It was alive with tales of wolves, monsters, ghosts, leshes, brownies and goblins which were thought to manipulate human lives.. Even though the educated people accepted Russian Orthodoxy, along with its icons filling every room, priests and sacraments, their serfs still kept alive the Empire's pagan religion among themselves. The nurses of Helena, or Lelinka as they affectionately called her, believed these superstitions. Furthermore, Lelinka, being born in the seventh month of the year, was called a sedmitchka, a word that is difficult to translate but is connected with the number seven.


According to legend it was believed that supernatural beings could be placated or even controlled by people like Helena. On the night of her birthday the servants would carry the little girl around the house and stables while sprinkling holy water and repeating magical incantations to appease the domovoy, a goblin in the form of an old man who lived behind the stove and played tricks whenever displeased. Some thought each household had one. Supposedly such activities were not known by her mother or grandparents. If they did know about them, initially they refused to assign any importance to them until later.


It was not that the household servants thought that Helena was special, she showed it. She threw temper tantrums whenever she did not get her way. Finally, as she later recalled, the family members noticed her abnormalities and she was exorcised many times, but the rituals proved to no avail. Even scolding and punishments failed to change her outrageous unacceptable behavior. She fail to

change as a child because, it seems, after the servant boy drowned, plus the attention she was receiving, she felt she was powerful and invulnerable, and increasingly believed that mighty forces would carry out her wishes. A belief that seemed to permeate her life.


Her only happy childhood memories seem to be between six and twelve in her father's army camps. She was petted and spoiled as the enfant du regiment. She tyrannized over her father's orderlies whom she preferred to her female nurses and governesses. While being pampered she managed to pickup a smattering of knowledge about shamans and magic which she put to good use later in life.


After the death of their mother, at age 28, Helena with her sister and brother lived with their maternal grandparents. The grandmother, Helena Palovna de Fadeev, was a princess of the Dolgorkurov family, and a famous botanist. So from her mother and grandmother HPB inherited her characteristics of stubbornness, a fiery temper, and a disregard for social norms, all of which she amplified.


Helena's first love affair, at age 16, had been with Prince Alexander Galistin, cousin to the Viceroy of the Caucasus. At the time her grandfather served as his Imperial Councilor. Her interest in the Prince was because of his interest in occultism and magic. She later claimed the affair ended on the Prince's death, but he jilted her.


When 17 she married General Nicephore Blavatsky. There are several stories for this marriage, but it seems to be that a governess had scolded Helena for her temper tantrums, saying she could not even get an old man to marry her. To prove the governess wrong, and to divert attention from her unhappy affair with Prince Galistin she married Blavatsky, who she called old and about seventy or eighty.


Actually he was around forty when they married and outlived her. After three unhappy months of a honeymoon, HPB managed to escape from the General's bodyguards and return to her grandfather who was not glad to see her. Her quickly shipped her off to her father, now retired and living near St. Petersburg, in charge of a maid and three men servants, all of whom she escaped. Her father traveled two thousand mile for nothing to meet her in Odessa. Helena was aboard an English bark, some say eloping with the skipper, sailing for Constantinople.



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